Good morning everyone,
Today, we’ll do something different and examine a short book called “Giants.” (SIDE NOTE: The last book we reviewed was “Enormity” by W. G. Marshall.) Giants is a young adult (YA) novel which was first released in mid-August 1999 and was created by Hugh Scott, a former art teacher turned writer.
Hugh Scott may be most well-known for his earlier book “Why Weeps the Brogan?” That came out in 1989 and won that year’s Whitbread Children’s Novel Award. (NOTE: The Whitbread Book Awards were established in 1971 to promote British writing and were later renamed to the Costa Book Awards in 2006. Insert joke about British literary award being called “Whit[e]bread” here 😉 )
However, I was unfamiliar with Scott’s work until I stumbled across an online reference to Giants. It looked interesting so I found a seller on eBay and ordered myself a used paperback for a little over eight dollars.
The plot behind Giants involves the two Rothwell brothers, the youngest was Harold or “Harry” and the eldest was Millingham a.k.a. “Midget,” who become aware of strange inhabitants in their town. The boys work alongside two girls, Jennie “Jen” and Martina “Marty,” to discover the true nature of odd people like a bookseller who eats pages out of books and teachers who seemingly stretch their limbs and their entire bodies to inhuman dimensions! This is a short story; so, I will not disclose anymore important details in order to avoid spoilers.
I enjoyed the mystery unraveling as the kids slowly discover the truth. It was simple and uncomplicated, but worked for a YA novel. Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read, but it was not outstanding.
For one, this is a solidly British work with many references to that culture which were presented as understood without any effort to explain things. For example, Harry and Midget’s father was the vicar at a local church. I was somewhat familiar with the term vicar, but was unsure if that meant that he was the leader of just a town’s local Church of England or if he was someone with greater responsibility than a priest. I thought that a vicar might be roughly equivalent to a Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.
(SIDE NOTE: Merriam-Webster defines vicar as “an ecclesiastical agent such as a Church of England incumbent receiving a stipend but not the tithes of a parish.“ Maybe that’s helpful?)
Obviously, following the plot does not require knowing the precise meaning of vicar. It sufficed, in my opinion, just to think of him as a generic church leader.
However, there were other instances such as name-dropping English author Arthur Ransome which went over my head. I do appreciate references to works made by other cultures as they can help uneducated readers like myself gain insight into places far from where we live. However, I would have preferred a little more detail. For instance, the book could have told us why Harry liked the children’s literature written by Arthur Ransome. Instead, we were only told that Harry bought a hardback copy of “Winter Holiday.” What kind of book is Winter Holiday? I have no idea. Does Harry feel strongly about Arthur Ransome’s books? Does he cherish Ransome’s stories? I don’t know. I only know that Harry bought one. Obviously, he liked it well enough to spend money, but it was unclear if he was a huge fan or just wanted to buy something and Winter Holiday was the only thing available.
To be honest, I initially wondered if Winter Holiday was only a fictional book made up by Hugh Scott merely to give his character something to buy. In contrast, this could have been used as a chance to describe Ransome’s stories and entice readers to go out and read Ransome themselves. Harry could have said “Wow, I love Ransome’s action-packed stories!” (NOTE: I’m just guessing why kids like his books.) Point being, I’d have preferred if Scott had described why Ransome was worth reading. Of course, Scott was under no obligation to do so. Nor did he have to make Giants easily accessible to a worldwide audience. The intent might have been to specifically focus its appeal on Brits. On that note, under the listed price of £3.99 (about $5.50) “UK ONLY” was printed so apparently this was never meant for foreign eyes. Little did the publisher know that an American expat in Japan would someday gain access to such forbidden contraband. Who knows what dark mysteries I can now unravel with this newfound knowledge of exotic British themes? Mwahahaha! 😉
That point made, I don’t want to overemphasize it. The book is perfectly understandable and no major narrative developments will be missed by readers unfamiliar with the UK.
However, there were other puzzling choices. For one, Millingham purposely chose the nickname “Midget.” His parents couldn’t agree on his first name. So, instead of having a “normal” first name like John with Millingham as a middle name and lastly his surname Rothwell, his Mom and Dad gave him only two names, Millingham Rothwell. His peers at school tried to call him “Millie,” but he ensured that they called him “Midget.” Which I guess is better, maybe? <shrug>
Personally, I’m more familiar with midget being used as an insult. Someone arguing with a person of below average height might angrily call that short person a “midget.” I can’t recall any instances in which someone wanted to be called a midget. (NOTE: With the possible exception of “Gidget,” a fictional diminutive surfer with a nickname combining “girl” and “midget.”) Presumably, since Millingham is described as tall, it was like ironically calling a bald person “Harry” or a fat person “Slim.” But usually other people create those ironic nicknames, not the person themselves.
Overall, despite its flaws, Giants was fun. I recommend it, but only at a decent price. Do not under any circumstances pay the current asking price of $596 at Amazon.us! Best to look for this at a used bookstore or on eBay instead. Alternatively, Amazon.co.uk sells used paperback editions for £0.99 as of this writing. Whatever you do, don’t spend more than the original £3.99.
That’s it for now folks. Next week will begin with a look at a size-themed SFX clip from Ludella Hahn. Until then, keep growing!
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